Entertaining Bella Style Day 5

Dont procrastinate, just do it!

Don’t put off getting together with your family and your friends. Don’t wait till you are less busy, that will never happen. Use the time that you do have and make it a priority. If that means ordering a pizza and throwing a salad together and opening a bottle of wine, I say just do it.

This morning I am thinking of and praying for a friends family who is struggling this holiday season. So my heart is talking to you and not the chef. You do not have to prepare a fancy meal to enjoy your friends and family. In our very busy lives we make work and our obligations top priority (or at least I have for too many years to count). It really will do your heart and soul good as well as others to spontaneously entertain. In a world where we are bombarded every single day with bad news, make it a priority to create good moments and good memories.

I challenge you all in this next week to call friends or family you have been meaning to connect with and create something spontaneous.


Chef Shelly

Entertaining Bella Style Day 4

So your party is planned, the guests are invited, your menu is written. 

The big question is what sort of dinnerware are you using? Should you use china, stoneware, every day dishes or disposable? I am probably going to open a can of worms with this one 🙂 I think a lot of this depends on how many quests you are inviting. Personally I own fine china that we received as wedding gifts, I own Christmas china that maybe gets used once a year or every other year, also there is the ceramic dishes from Italy that I love (they are my favorite) and my everyday dishes, not to mention a basement full of restaurant white plates in every size and shape.

I very rarely use disposable… there have been occasions that I do. When I am already exhausted from my work schedule and have so many guests coming that I am ready to pull my hair out and really  have no desire to spend one whole day doing dishes. On those occasions I try to find a nice clear disposable plate or fun shape. I am however a stickler on wine glasses. I truly believe wine tastes better in a glass then in a plastic cup. I do not believe the flavor of food will change if you eat off a board, out of a cup, on fine china or with your bare hands. I do however believe wine tastes better in a glass.

Now I realize there are some special circumstances, and desperate times call for desperate measures. I have drank Silver Oak straight from the bottle on a bus on the Italian Alps when there where no glasses to be found. First you are thinking really a Californian wine in Italy… we were on a ski trip and met new friends from California who brought wine with them. How great is that when you are stranded on a bus in a snow storm?

And still top priority is that you as the host, should enjoy yourself.

Chef Shelly

Entertaining Bella Style Day 3

I am hoping by Christmas Eve that I will get you 12 days of Entertaining Tips & Advise. WOW what a crazy start to December. Some really great cooking classes and events with some wonderful people!

NEW RECIPES Yes or No. Should you try new recipes for your holiday entertaining ? This is going to be one of those do as I say and not as I do moments 🙂 I have a tendency to get bored with the same things all of the time. I like new foods, new flavors, new combinations. I know some people are pretty religious about traditional foods, and have the same menu every single year. Me not so much, it will always be a surprise when you come to my house for the holidays.

So my take on new recipes for your holiday entertaining. Yes if : you have time to do a trial run first; you are entertaining a small group of friends or family that you just supply wine and they are supportive and happy ; you review the recipe and are confident with the different cooking techniques and ingredients.

I think it is great to pick a new theme every year, Italian, French, Spanish, Mediterranean you get the idea. And have each guest choose a recipe that will coordinate with your menu, and then all the pressure is not on you. Every one has the same chances of success or failure on their new recipes.

When it gets right down to it, getting together with family and friends is they most important ingredient to your holiday entertaining. I say we enjoy this holiday season like its the last, because we truly do not have a guarantee how many there will be. So don’t put off till next year your ideal holiday season. Start new traditions, do the traditional things you love. Be kind and help those in need. Visit with the people who mean the most to you and you will not have any regrets.


Chef Shelly

Entertaining Bella Style

Entertaining Bella Style: tips and advise for holiday entertaining.

Day two, and I am behind. December has started with quite a BANG. Prep, Prep Prep I cannot stress this enough. Once you write your menu, make a list of items and cooking tasks that can be done ahead of time. I had an event this weekend for 50. One full day was shopping and prep, one day was cooking and the event, and one day was clean up. I could not have pulled off the event without a prep day.

What does a prep day look like for me? Sometimes I start backwards with desserts. I like to know that once I have made it through dinner or heavy appetizers it will be smooth sailing after with desserts already prepared with just garnishments and plating. Other tasks that can be done the day before: sauces, vinaigrettes, dressings, vegetables cleaned cut & chopped and protein fabricating. You can start organizing the tableware you will be using, decide on serving pieces and get everything set out. This will make the day of the event so much easier.

Yesterday I attended a holiday brunch and was very impressed by the display of food so beautiful and organized, and a large quantity of food. The hostess who happens to be a great friend seemed very relaxed and not stressed. I had asked when I was invited if I could bring a dish, absolutely not she replied. So I had to ask “How did you do all of this?” The hostess had prepped the whole day before.

I always have a writing tablet in the kitchen with me and make lists of tasks for my prep day and my event day. This helps you stay on task, become organized and more relaxed on event day.

Happy holiday entertaining, share your holiday photos on Bella Bistro’s FB page with any of your entertaining tips.


Chef Shelly

Entertaining Bella Style

Its December 1st and the holiday season is upon us. I will be bringing you twelve days of Entertaining for the Holiday’s Advise. Yes you can take it or leave it, you will not hurt my feelings :). With 15 years of cooking, entertaining, catering, cooking classes and restaurant work I am sure you will find some of my advise helpful.

Day number one advise: Hand a glass of wine and a wooden spoon to a friend. What do I mean by that? Do not hesitate to solicit help from your dinner guests and friends. I have been doing it for years. Do not try to be a rock star or martyr in the kitchen. It is such a great feeling to have your guests completely enjoy the evening, it is even a better feeling for you to be enjoying it with them!

Seriously… I remember one year, long before I became a chef and I was hosting a dinner party. Half of my recipes were from Martha Stewart, and I insisted on cooking everything not allowing any of my guests to help. One of the stupidest things I have ever done. I do have a long list. One: Martha (I love her) has the longest a$$ recipes I have ever seen. Some are three pages long. I had so much time involved in this dinner and worked so hard that I did not truly enjoy it. And I was not super happy when my guests did not realize how much work was involved. Lets face it friends, people who do not cook sometimes do not realize all the hours involved. I learned a lesson that evening I wanted to enjoy the dinner party as much as my guests. How should I accomplish this, you ask? Drag their a$$ in the kitchen with me. Yep you got it. Have a glass and bottle of wine (or Cartizze) and they will follow.

Think about evenings spent cooking with friends. For me it is some of my fondest memories. When in Italy with family and friends I don’t even wait to be asked into the kitchen I bull doze my way in. I want to learn and watch and be part of everything that is happening. Many of times I hand a glass of wine that comes with a wooden spoon to stir risotto. Or hand a glass of wine and teach a friend how to roll pasta. Or sometimes I decide  to throw a dinner party with new recipes and when a guest or friend asks if they can bring something sometimes I give them a list of ingredients to bring, or tell them just to come. But I do say you will be in the kitchen cooking with me. I do not think I have offended any of my friends or family by doing this…. how do I know? I never have a shortage of friends at my dinner parties, they keep coming back. Sometimes they learn something new, sometimes they find a new recipe to add to their favorites.

This holiday season when you are planning your parties I encourage you to think of how you will enjoy this party as much as your guests. Plan your party accordingly and follow through with it. If one of your guests is not happy with this new idea of helping you, there are two ways to handle this. One, never invite them again, because really how much fun are they? Really? Two give them my phone number and I will sort it all out for you 🙂

Signing off for now…. I bet you can’t wait to read more of my helpful hints for an enjoyable holiday & entertaining season.

Chef, Shelly